‘Lehigh Lore’ column: History of ‘the Hill,’ part two


Last semester, I covered the origins of “the Hill” and the migration of fraternities from off-campus to chapter houses in Sayre Park. Now, I will look at the moves that happened, especially during the 1990s and 2000s, because of suspended and removed chapters.

Kerry Mallett, B&W staff

Kerry Mallett, B&W staff

While each fraternity chapter paid for the construction and upkeep of the chapter house originally, in the late 1980s, the university started purchasing the chapter houses. This helped keep them up to code and have better maintenance, but also gave the university greater authority to make decisions about who would reside in each chapter house.

Previously, if a fraternity was suspended for a few years for whatever reason, the alumni council often decided whether to take boarders or close the house until the chapter recolonized. Now, the university can decide whether to move someone in temporarily — like a sorority chapter for a few years — or to convert it into a residence hall.

Two sororities — Delta Zeta and Alpha Chi Omega — lived in various chapter houses on “the Hill” while the fraternities were suspended. However, in 1996, the board of trustees made the decision that sororities, followed by special interest housing, should move onto “the Hill” if fraternities were removed. The first sorority to have permanent housing on “the Hill” was Alpha Phi, and other chapters were offered houses in the order they were established at Lehigh when fraternities were removed.

In order to walk through all of the changes in the easiest way possible, I will start at the gates to “the Hill” and go up, around death curve, along Upper Sayre Drive, and back down again.

Kappa Delta moved into the house near Taylor College in fall 2014. The year prior, it was an upperclass residence hall named “Park House,” which was converted after Delta Gamma sorority was removed from campus by its national headquarters in spring 2013. The building was originally occupied by Sigma Nu fraternity, which built the original structure on the site in the early 1900s and built the current structure in the 1960s. Delta Gamma moved in after the fraternity was removed from campus in 2002 after a hazing incident.

Across the street, Pi Beta Phi sorority was once the home of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Pi Phi moved into the house in fall 2008 following a hazing incident where Beta was removed from campus by its national headquarters.

Other chapters lower on “the Hill,” like Chi Psi, Delta Upsilon, Psi Upsilon, Delta Phi and Kappa Alpha have all consistently lived in their chapter houses.

Continuing up “the Hill,” Pi Kappa Alpha moved into its chapter house in fall 2012 after operating as an off-campus fraternity since recolonizing in 2008. Delta Tau Delta fraternity previously lived there and was removed from campus in spring 2011. The house was renamed “Hill House” and served as an upperclass and transfer residence hall for the school year in between.

Sigma Phi Epsilon moved back into its chapter house in 1996 after its national headquarters suspended the chapter for four years. During that time, the building was a residence hall for a year, and then Delta Zeta sorority lived in it.

Zeta Tau Alpha moved into its current house in fall 2011. It previously was the home of the Live Lehigh! Technology in Society community for a year and was originally the home of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, which was removed in 2008. Sammy was also suspended during the 1990s, and in the interim time, the house was used as a conference center and for alumni events.

Alpha Chi Rho originally lived in Alpha Chi Omega’s current home. The fraternity was suspended in the late 80s, so Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity lived in the space for three-quarters of a year, followed by Delta Zeta sorority, which lived there for three years, until Alpha Chi Rho moved back. The fraternity failed the occupancy requirement in 2007, so Alpha Chi Omega moved in permanently the following school year.

Continuing up Upper Sayre Park Drive, Lambda Chi Alpha was removed from campus last summer and has since become an upperclass residence hall. It was recently announced that next year it will become fraternity housing again, and Delta Chi and Phi Delta Theta are eligible to apply for the house.

Next door, Alpha Phi moved into the house in 1996 after Pi Lambda Phi was removed from campus.

Zeta Psi originally lived across the street, but after the chapter was removed, Alpha Gamma Delta moved in in 2000.

Moving back down “the Hill” and along Lower Sayre Park Drive, Gamma Phi Beta moved into its chapter house in 1998 after the alumni of Sigma Phi decided to close the chapter.

Alpha Omicron Pi was originally home to Theta Delta Chi—the letters are still etched into a plaque in the sets of stairs leading to the house — and the sorority moved in after the fraternity was removed in 2004. However, it is not the first sorority to live there — Alpha Chi Omega resided there while TDX was suspended in the early 1990s.

The Umoja residential living community moved into its current house in fall 2003 — it used to reside in Warren Square — after Phi Delta Theta was removed from campus.

Phi Gamma Delta, or FIJI, was removed from campus in 2013, and its chapter house has since been used as an upperclass residence hall.

Finally, Kappa Alpha Theta moved into its house in 2006 after Alpha Sigma Phi’s national headquarters removed them from campus.

Updated on February 18 to remove last line.

Updated on March 15 to change “1990s” to “1900s.”

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  1. Canning C. Kraft, Lehigh Class 1979 and Sigma Nu member for life on

    How in the hell did Sigma Nu build the original structure in 1990s and the current site in the 1960s? Your article is a piece OF CRAP!! Sigma Nu had 116 year history at Lehigh, and the University wanted control of one of the most modern, beautiful and centrally located frat houses on campus period. Irresponsible journalism like yours simply enrages alumni and cuts off ties to Lehigh. FYI Sigma Nu is holding its 130 year reunion at Lehigh in April 2015; why don’t you print something positive about Sigma Nu for a change?

  2. Theta Delta Chi was STOLEN by Lehigh and given to a sorority that was off campus. That’s how justice works nowadays in the liberal world. Steal from those who have, and give it to those who didn’t work for it.

    • Embarrassed to Be Associated on

      Theta Delta Chi (TDX) was awesome. It got removed due to some troll from Chi Omega, a sorority that had only one pledge that year, drinking herself almost into the grave. I don’t even think she was hazed–just stupid. Unfortunately, TDX ended up getting most of the blame even though IIRC correctly, that girl was drunk before she even showed up to the house.

      Chi Omega didn’t last much longer but I was surprised the school kept them as long as they did–they were wasting campus real estate that could have been used for on-campus housing for upper classmen. Joining that sorority was worse than being unaffiliated in pretty much every way.

  3. Pingback: A History of Greek Life at Lehigh University | Tim O'Hearn

  4. 9 years too late here – but dude – if you were class of 1974 and you got this excited and nasty over an obvious typo, you lead a very sad life. I feel bad for you.

    • My comment immediate above – to be clear was to Mister (and I use the term lightly) Kraft, and not Stephen Mueller (whose Brother needs to get a life 50 years after the fact).

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